TROUBLED airline Loganair has announced it has begun a “worldwide search” for a new chief executive after Stewart Adams announced that he was stepping down from the position for personal reasons.
Adams joined the company from Singapore-based Tiger Airways in January 2013. He will remain in post until April having led an initiative to improve the airline’s substandard operational performance in recent months.
In 2015 nearly one in four flights was delayed by 15 minutes or more, with planes frequently unable to fly due to technical issues, and pilots expressing concerns about shortcomings within its maintenance department.
The company has taken various steps, including employing more engineers, as it targets an increase in punctuality to 85 per cent.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott called on the airline to use the appointment of Adams’ replacement as a “fresh start”.
“It is essential that the incomnig chief executive addresses flight reliability, passenger delays and engineering challenges, which we have all been encountering, as a matter of urgency,” he said.
“Loganair must see this as a fresh start and an opportunity to regain confidence of islanders who depend on our lifeline air service.”
Loganair chairman David Harrison described Adams as an “extremely hardworking chief executive” who had “provided strong leadership” over the past three years, thanking him for his efforts “during what has been a challenging period”.
Harrison said: “His experience has proved to be a significant asset, particularly while we have been developing a major raft of initiatives to ensure our punctuality and customer service are soon back at the levels which our customers have rightly come to expect from us over many years.
“We have already begun to undertake a worldwide search to identify a new chief executive with the drive, skills and expertise to deliver on the commitments we have made to our customers and the communities we serve.
“We are hopeful that this process will be completed quickly and that we can conclude an effective handover in the spring.”
Adams said it had been a “great privilege” to lead the organisation and claimed the “widespread improvement initiatives we launched last year are already having a positive impact”, while its strong financial performance had enabled it to undertake “the largest investment programme in the company’s history”.
“For personal reasons the time is now right for me to step down,” he added, “and I am confident that the strong foundations which have been laid will help enable the new chief executive to continue the company’s expansion and growth.”
The company, which operates 31 routes across the Highlands and Islands and the rest of the UK, earlier this month increased its air fares by 1.3 per cent after posting profits of £7.2 million in 2014/15.
It announced that it was “significantly increasing” its annual investment programme to £15 million. That includes purchasing two 50-seater Saab 2000 aircraft, upgrading the “workhorse” of its fleet, the Sab 340, and a £6 million investment in a new spares hub at Glasgow Airport.
Following powerful lobbying from a 15,000-strong campaign to improve the service, Loganair introduced a new compassionate fare policy offering a 50 per cent fare reduction to passengers faced with sudden bereavement or an unexpected critical illness to immediate family members.
Loganair runs services to and from Shetland as part of a franchise arrangement with Flybe, which was flooded with angry responses from Scottish islanders after announcing on social media that it won “best short haul airline” at the Business Travel Awards on Monday night.
Flybe has kept quiet in recent months while Loganair has borne the brunt of passengers’ anger at frequent delays.
Numerous Shetlanders let Flybe know, in no uncertain terms, how they felt about the award. Several described the service on offer as a “disgrace” and a “joke”, while others referred to the budget airline by its nickname “Flymaybe”.
“It’s a nice surprise when a flight leaves on time,” read one response, while another stated: “Perhaps Flybe, who ‘typically respond in minutes’, might want to take this opportunity to reply to the many negative comments and justify their win as best short haul airline?”
Flybe’s social media team responded to positive comments congratulating the airline on its award, but has yet to respond to any of the negative feedback from passengers in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles.
Back in November, Shetland councillor Alastair Cooper suggested that Flybe should be shouldering its share of the blame for the problems which have beset air services to and from the islands in recent months.
“We’re speaking about Flybe and their franchisee, which is Loganair, that’s not performing. Where does Flybe’s responsibility come in? Loganair is taking all the flak.”